25 and Younger: the Hitters (Top Dozen)
I have been asked several times to rank the 25-and-younger crowd of major league players and where I see their careers going. So, let's take a look, beginning with the position players. I am not including anyone who is still a technical rookie.
This is my list of favorite players. I rank 12 here, and this should be regarded as my "personal favorites" list. NOTE: I'm writing up brief capsules for a bunch of other guys that I'm not ranking, but want to write about. That article will follow in about an hour. ANOTHER NOTE: Matt Wieters and Carlos Santana count as age 26.
1) Justin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: Age 24. Extremely potent power/speed combination should make him an MVP candidate and perennial All-Star going forward.
2) Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays: Age 22. The only thing I'm concerned about here is a possible tendency towards nagging injuries. If he stays healthy, Lawrie will be (already is) a terrific hitter with power, speed, and a glove that is underrated (at a minimum) and could be excellent once he settles in . He's superb.
3) Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals: Age 22. With anything approaching a normal development curb, he could be the best first baseman of his generation.
4) Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: Age 25. Power, speed, walks, defense, does everything except hit for a high batting average, and that might come.
5) Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins: Age 22. Skills aren't as balanced as McCutchen's or Upton's, but has more raw power than anyone.
6) Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants: Age 25. This assumes he stays healthy and can stay behind the plate for awhile. If he can't catch, we'll have to lower his stock somewhat but still a valuable property.
7) Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs: Age 22. Off-field issues aside, it is hard to see him as anything but a perennial All-Star contender as he moves into his prime.
8) Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves: Age 22. Impressive rookie year, like Hosmer if he has a normal development curve he'll be a mainstay for a decade.
9) Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves: Age 22. I still believe in him despite a rough sophomore season. I do have some durability concerns.
10) Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds: Age 25: I don't think he gets mentioned as often as he should when young stars are discussed. Another guy who won't hit for a huge batting average but features devastating power.
11) Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers: Age 23. Stands out for his defense, and I think his bat will improve significantly as he gets into his mid-to-late 20s.
12) Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle Mariners: Age 24. I anticipate further improvement with the bat and strong OBP performance with moderate power.